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COVID NEWS

Eatery owners react to new Covid guidelines

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Baldwin restaurant owners said they had mixed emotions about the new Covid-19 guidance handed down by Governor Cuomo that increases capacity limits, lifts the nightly curfew and removes the mask mandate for those who are fully vaccinated.

Social gathering limits are to be increased to 500 for outdoor venues and 250 for indoor spaces. Cuomo removed the curfew that was set for outdoor dining areas on May 17 and indoor areas on May 31.

Additionally, Cuomo announced that the state was adopting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new guidance on mask use, which allows fully vaccinated people — those who have had both dozes of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for two weeks — to go mask-less outdoors, except in certain crowded settings. Masks, however, must still be worn indoors and by people who are not fully vaccinated. 

“Oh lord, I really hope people will be honest about whether or not they have been vaccinated,” said Queens resident Tanesha Darling, who owns Rock and Come In Jamaican Restaurant in Baldwin. Darling, who is fully vaccinated, said she wants more people to receive Covid-19 vaccinations before she brings back seating to her restaurant.

“I want more people to be vaccinated, but I don’t think I’ll ever make my customers prove they have been vaccinated, unless the CDC makes that a mandate,” Darling said.

Maocello Erickson, a Baldwin resident who owns No Good Burger Joint, said he is not worried or affected by all the changes in state guidelines. “My restaurant has the same hours with or without the curfew, and I think people should have the freedom to do what they want when it comes to the decision to wear masks,” Erickson said.

Erickson said he believes people should have the right to do what they are comfortable doing, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or not. “People are going to do what they want to do,” he said. “I think when something is very strongly enforced, people tend to want to do the exact opposite.” 

Erickson said he would continue to require masks when diners are not seated, take their temperatures at the door and continue to provide hand sanitizer, even for people who have been fully vaccinated. “Even though I think people should do what they want,” he added, “I will keep my mask on, and I prefer if my customers wear masks when not seated.” 

Erickson said he is pleased that an increasing number of people have received their vaccinations. He is not getting vaccinated yet, however, because he and his wife are trying to have children. “The CDC says one thing, and they might go back on it. You never know…. I’m still playing it safe,” he said.

Wayne Weng, of South Oyster Bay, who manages Basil Leaf Grill Thai Cuisine Lounge, said he believes in all CDC guidelines. “I think things happen for a reason, and I think if the CDC says vaccinated people can remove the masks, then things must be getting better,” Weng said, adding that he is fully vaccinated. 

Weng said the lifted curfew does not affect his establishment’s hours, and he does not usually have catered gatherings as large as the capacity limit that the state is allowing. “I have more of an optimistic outlook now that more people are getting vaccinated,” Weng said. “Only time will tell if things will get better.”